Legionnaires support Army museum

Plans for construction of the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Va., continue apace. The American Legion supports the building of the museum, as well as publicizing its status to departments, posts and members, through Resolution 17, which was passed during the October 2005 National Executive Committee meeting in Indianapolis.

Earlier this year, the Army Historical Foundation – the museum’s official fundraiser – announced a sponsorship program to encourage donations for construction. Veterans’ Hall will be a multifunctional space for reunions, meetings, presentations, lectures and other official events. The hall will house interactive features such as the Registry of the American Soldier, artifacts and special exhibits. VSOs and other Army affinity groups are invited to sponsor Veterans' Hall, and in return have their organizations' names permanently displayed on the Donor Wall in the lobby.

Kenneth H. Nash Post 8 in Washington was one of the first groups to take advantage of the new program, collaborating with its Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion members to become sponsors. For its $2,500 contribution, the post will be recognized at the Bronze Service Star level on the Donor Wall.

"It struck a chord with us that the Army is the oldest military service, yet it is the only service to not have a national museum," said Post 8 Commander Kathryn Stillman. "When the Auxiliary brought the Veterans’ Hall Program to our attention, there wasn’t much discussion – we knew we wanted to jump on board and be a part of this."

Post 8 decided that the most appropriate action would be to make a donation as a group – the post, unit and squadron. "The American Legion is about supporting veterans," Stillman said, "and it is important to us that the museum preserve and relay the Army’s history and the soldier’s legacy."

While accepting their donation, Maj. Gen. John P. Herrling, the museum campaign’s executive director, acknowledged the selfless support the Legion provides to veterans every day. "I think it’s terrific how they rallied their troops in this effort, and it’s an honor to include them on our Veterans’ Hall Donor Wall."

Col. David Fabian, a spokesman for the Army Historical Foundation, said that around 25 American Legion groups have started the process of paying out the $2,500 Bronze Service Star donation since August. The entire amount does not need to be given at one time and not just groups can contribute. Fabian said that they recently marked the 100,000th individual (person) donor to the museum. Major, corporate and foundation gifts are also coming in.

With these developments in hand, dates are being determined for the museum’s next steps. A site dedication will take place on March 15, 2013. Actor Joe Mantegna, the national spokesman for the building campaign, will give the keynote address. The date was chosen deliberately, Fabian said, as it is the 230th anniversary of Gen. George Washington’s famous speech to his frustrated Army officers at Newburgh, N.Y., dissuading them from trying to overthrow the civilian government and thus preserving the American tradition of civilian control of military forces. A groundbreaking is planned for 2014, and the museum’s opening for 2017.

Find out more about the Veterans’ Hall Program here.